After getting much info on selecting my cruise from others I thought I would share my thoughts on the cruise I just returned from on the NCL Spirit. After having been on 13 other cruises, I was a bit concerned with going on NCL since in general I think that it does not have have as good a reputation as most or the other major lines but all in all it was an excellent experience. I sailed with a friend along with my sister and brother in law.
Embarkation: I really enjoyed the convenience of sailing out of NY. We chose to take the train in from NJ and walk from Penn Station to the cruise ship terminal since it was a beautiful day. The walk only took us about 45 minutes and was not bad at all. Sailing out of NY harbor is an experience not to be missed!
Public Rooms: I thought the ship was really beautiful and liked the scale of the rooms. Never felt crowed or too big. If you love the traditional cruising experiences such as a card room and good library, you will love this ship. Also it has a fantastic, very wide wrap around promenade deck with real teak steamer chairs with pads. I sailed on the new Crown Princess and the deck was only half as wide and the ship was a third larger. This is one of the ships best features in my opinion. The public rest rooms on this ship were really poorly maintained and dirty. I found this quite surprising because all of the other areas of the ship were kept really clean.
Cabin: We had inside cabins. They were a bit worn and definitely in need of refurbishment, although fine for a short cruise. The shower was the best feature, it was very large and one of the biggest I have ever experienced with a real glass door vs. the curtain that clings to you. So this was something that I thought made a big difference. I hated the soap and shampoo they provide. You would need to use huge handfuls of it and it would not lather. I felt like I was using hand cream instead of soap. They really need to improve the products that they use. Princess, Celebrity, and RCCL all had much better cabin amenities. The beds were also kind of hard and small. The cabin was kept very clean and you do get the towel animals if that is something that is important to you.
Dining: I thought the food was OK, but not great. The buffet variety could have been better. On the first night we ordered shrimp cocktail, which was not on the menu but we were told that you could order at any time along with steak, salmon, and chicken, and when it was served it was was very small 1/4" sized shrimp on a bed of lettuce, the kind that you would get in a can. I questioned this with the Maitre'd and he said that is what is normally served, but he brought us a nice real shrimp cocktail from one of the specialty restaurants at no extra cost, which was a nice gesture. We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants, but the food in the main dining rooms was adequate and plentiful, just nothing outstanding. The service was excellent and we never had a hard time getting a table. I really liked the freestyle dining experience. The buffet was always chaotic and crazy, so we tried to avoid it at peak times. They had free ice cream all day, not like all of the others lines who are charging an extra fee for it. They do not have pizza was I felt really strange, all of the other ships I have been have offered this and I was surprised to find that NCL does not on the Spirit. You can order it off of the kid's menu in the main dining rooms, and we did one night and found it quite tasty!
Entertainment: The absolute best I have ever experienced! The main production shows were very well done. The also had a magician and an acrobatic troupe on board which were excellent. The end of cruise show were they bring all of the staff up on stage was a very nice touch. The entertainment on this ship far surpassed my expectations.
Service: Service in just about every instance was absolutely spectacular. I thought the freestyle experience would mean that the the service would not be as good, but that was not the case at all.
Ports: We loved the New England itinerary. We sailed to Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston, and Martha's Vineyard. The tendering process got to be a bit slow and NCL uses an antiquated card system in comparison to Princess, RCCL and Celebrity, which seems to do a much better job of getting people off of the ship faster and managing the process. We could not get off the ship until 10:30-11:00 AM in the ports in which we had to tender which was disappointing since I look forward to as much time in port as possible.
Value: Could not beat the price, I only paid $499.99 + port charges, so it could not be beat form that perspective!
Overall Cruise: The ports and the weather really do make the cruise for me and since I had excellent weather and really enjoyed the ports this was a great cruise which I would very highly recommend.